Sometime during June 1966, The 'N Betweens or The In-Betweens (or countless other misspellings) played a 'mini tour' of Cornwall. They played a week at the 400 Ballroom in Torquay and a week at the Blue Lagoon in Newquay.
The boys were staying in a caravan in Newquay. One of these dates, Johnny Howells announced that he was not going to that nights gig. Holder believes he had pulled a girl in Newquay and wanted time alone. The four lads we now know as Slade went off and performed together in public for the first time. It was a complete success and a great present for Holder. His 20th birthday was also that week.
Searching for that elusive gig where the members of Slade first played together, has proved to be a lot more difficult than expected. The gig itself is remembered by the members of the band and Graham Swinnerton, their Road Manager but the date is questionable. Holder is somewhat unreliable with his dates and he is behind the facts on both accounts of this event.
Well, the adverts for Torquay have been found and they suggest that The N'Betweens were there for the entire week, except maybe Sunday. Not one of the cross-eyed audience has been found although many cross-eyed people have been asked if they were there in '66."...they'd contracted various bookings on the strength of Howells name including... an annual engagement for a series of shows... in and around Torquay...
...says Noddy "We were doing a week around Devon and Cornwall and staying in a caravan in Newquay. One night Johnny tells us he has this bird coming round to the caravan and can we do the show without him?...
The first public performance by the quartet that became Slade thus occurred during the first week of June 1966 at the Park Ballroom in Plymouth, where an audience of cross-eyed souls danced to two 45 minute sets by The N' Betweens."
Feel The Noize - Chris Charlesworth 1984
"The management from the 400 demanded that John Howells sang with the group. It was great because at least it meant that we had a guaranteed week’s work.It was during that week that we were able to work on things because John did not perform the one night when we went to play in Plymouth. It was in Plymouth that we decided that Noddy was ideal as the group singer."The following week The In Betweens played the Blue Lagoon in Newquay from Saturday through till Wednesday being replaced by TV and Recording Groups "The N" Betweens for Thursday and Friday. It's worth pointing out that the Wednesday was Holder's 20th birthday. I find it strange that they are advertised for the entire week if they were supposedly playing one night in Plymouth?
"Matters came to a head just after we played a week in Torquay. We were then due to do four nights at the Blue Lagoon Ballroom in Newquay, then one show in Plymouth. The Torquay dates had gone really well and we were all having a laugh. I even thought that Dave and Don might have patched things up with Johnny...
We stayed for a week in a caravan in Newquay and had to drive from there to the gig in Plymouth. That afternoon we could tell that Johnny was in a weird mood. As we were about to set off for Plymouth he said " I cant make it to the gig tonight". It came totally out of the blue. I can't remember what his excuse was, he'd probably pulled a bird, but he wanted to stay in Newquay...
What Johnny didn't know was that we were waiting for a chance to play without him. We wanted to find out how we could cope when he left.
Plymouth was our first ever gig as a four peice. As it turned out Johnny was barely missed, we went down brilliantly. afterwards, we drove back to Newquay. We were buzzing..."
Who's Crazee Now? - Noddy Holder 1999
Plymouth Reference Library
Western Evening Herald: 18th June 1966
The N"Betweens played at the Park Ballroom on Sunday 19th and the 23rd June 1966. I think it's safe to assume that the Saturday 19th June is the first gig that Johnny Howells was not beholden to play and therefore opted out.
Thursday 23rd was most likely the last Cornish date and Howells officially left the group on Saturday 25th, probably the first day after they got back to the Midlands.
Many thanks to Chris Selby for his assistance and advice.